David Moyes
Moyes is under increased pressure after United's 2-0 defeat to Olympiakos.

Former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is the leading contender to replace David Moyes should the Scot be sacked following the 2-0 Champions League defeat to Olympiakos in Athens.

Moyes labelled the defeat to the Greek champions as United's worst performance in Europe. It leaves the club on the precipice of crashing out of the competition and all-but-ends their faint hopes of winning silverware this term.

United have also suffered domestically in defence of their Premier League title having fallen 15 points behind leaders Chelsea, while qualification for a 19<sup>th consecutive season in Europe's premier club competition appears unlikely with an 11-point gap to fourth placed Liverpool.

Reports on Wednesday suggested United were preparing a statement to the New York Stock Exchange, where the club's shares currently float, in reaction to the harrowing defeat in Greece. However the English champions have already quashed the possibility of sacking Moyes as "nonsense".

Speculation regarding Moyes' future has forced bookmakers into installing the 50-year-old as their favourite to be the next Premier League managerial sacking, and should United go through with the decision Ferguson is the likely candidate to step back into the hot seat.

The other contenders include current Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal and Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola.

Ferguson, a director at Old Trafford since announcing his retirement after 26 years in charge, has regularly attended matches this season despite leaving the club with the expectation he would explore interests away from football.

The 72-year-old's presence at United games has been accused of having a negative impact on Moyes in his first season in charge, but the 13-time league title winner shows no sign of staying away having played a central role in his original appointment.

Despite a difficult start to his United tenure, the January signing of Juan Mata was accompanied by the promise of further spending in the summer transfer window, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward confirming the club's average expenditure would increase in the off-season.

The position of Moyes, who signed a six-year contract in July, was further cemented last week after Wayne Rooney committed his future to the club by signing a new four-and-a-half year contract worth a reported £300,000-a-week, confirming his status as a central figure in United's immediate future.